Are there people God can’t stand?
This past Sunday, I got a new insight into something that has been discussed by theologians and scholars for centuries. It relates to the concept of “atonement” or the process by which God forgives sins.
The teaching of the Bible is clear that God forgives sins through the work of Christ on the cross, but it’s often not clear to scholars how that forgiveness gets applied to individual people.
- Does the death of Christ atone for all the sins of the whole world?
- Does the death of Christ provide possible atonement for all sins that is only effectively applied to those who receive it by faith?
- Does the death of Christ atone only for the sins of those who are chosen by God?
Now I don’t want to get into the debate of whether people are required to accept the atonement, or whether people are unswervingly selected by God for salvation. Instead, I just wanted to show an aspect of something I saw this last week that lends some insight into what it means to respond to the work of Christ.
It comes from three passages in the gospel of John:
The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.
John 3:35-36 NIV
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
John 14:23 NIV
No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.
John 16:27 NIV
The insight I had from the first passage was that God the Father loves God the Son so much that all he really wants is for people to accept, believe, and likewise love the Son. If someone rejects the Son, the Father will reject that person as well.
It’s just the same way I will treat anyone who wants to be my friend. If a friend of mine will not respect the ones I love, then I won’t continue that friendship!
Furthermore, the next passages indicate that our relationship with the Father is simply based on our relationship with the Son.
It really is all about relationship!
These passages and my observations aren’t revolutionary by any means, but they have given me a new perspective. You see, beforehand, I always had these sorts of thoughts:
If I accept the Son, then the Father will apply the blood of Christ to my life, forgive my sins, wrap me up in his Son, and therefore accept me too.
Primarily, I have thought of this in “religious” or “legal” terms. However, in light of these passages, I could think of it this way:
God the Father has set up his Son to be the Savior of the human race and the Lord of all things, and if I fully accept that truth, loving the Son and living by his word, then that’s all the Father really wants, but if anyone won’t see Jesus the way the Father sees Jesus, the Father simply can’t put up with that.
Viewed in this way, salvation is made possible by Jesus’ atoning death on the cross, but my experience of salvation truly depends on a relationship of love and fidelity with Jesus.
It’s just possible that receiving Jesus isn’t about me jumping through the required hoop so God can forgive me, but that it’s about me showing Jesus the kind of respect and love that the Father himself has for the Son.
Perhaps salvation really boils down to the Father saying to you and to me:
I love my Son, and if you do too, you’re in with me, but I just can’t stand anyone who doesn’t love my Son.
Sooooo… do you really love the Son? If your life were measured by the verses quoted above, would the Father conclude that you loved his Son?